Legal battle won’t keep Wailers’ leader down
Aston “Family Man” Barrett doesn’t let his six-year legal battle get in the way of his music.
Barrett, who was the legendary Bob Marley’s bassist, leader and arranger for the Wailers beginning in 1968, is suing Island Records for copyright infringement, business defamation and breach of fiduciary duty.
That hasn’t stopped the Wailers’ leader from continuously promoting the music of Marley, who was 36 when he died of cancer in 1981.
Barrett’s Wailers has performed around the world for 33 years. The nine-piece reggae group will be in Nevada City on Wednesday as part of a West Coast tour.
“At next week’s concert, people can hear the legendary band, the Wailers, the band that made Bob Marley internationally known, and ‘Family Man,’ the man who kept Bob Marley’s torch burning,” boasted Barrett by phone Monday from Santa Cruz, the day after a performance at The Catalyst.
He has a right to boast.
He and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, joined the Wailers in 1968 in Jamaica and co-produced 11 albums as Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Barrett wrote several of Marley’s songs, including “War,” “Who The Cap Fit,” “Dem Belly Full,” “Talkin Blues,” “Exodus” and “Want More.”
Today, “Family Man” is one of five original Wailers who perform internationally throughout the year. The others are Al Anderson, Tyrone Downie, Everton Gayle and Earl “Wya” Lindo. Barrett, who’s been away from his Jamaican home for months, is on tour through June.
Barrett is a little surprised – but thankful – that the Wailers still draw full houses today, three decades after the group’s formation.
“It’s good for (audiences) to see and hear the best,” he laughed, and then added seriously, “I pray we’re kept strong so we can spread our message.”
That message transmitted through the reggae music is in keeping with what’s in the Bible and Scripture, Barrett explained.
“We are the chosen few. Our destiny is to spread the message of roots, culture, reality and positiveness – to guide the young people so they don’t walk on the wild side,” Barrett said. “There’s too much crime and violence, which is taking over the world.”
Every day, Barrett takes the music’s message to heart.
“Strength, wisdom and overstanding, which is different from understanding, is everything.” Barrett said. “When you understand, you’re a believer. Overstanding is when you know, which is the greatest thing. You have to know what your destiny is all about. When you see the light, you have to fight for your rights. That’s what I’m doing with my legal battle.”
The lawsuit weighs heavily on Barrett, who said he’s promoted Bob Marley and the Wailers songs on his own every year with no support from distributors.
Barrett claims he has not received financial compensation for his songs and that his credits are being removed from songs he collaborated on with Marley.
“I need to be paid for my royalties, publishing, merchandising,” he said. “Distributors tried to erase the name of the Wailers (on the re-issued CDs); people got blinded by greed. In Jamaica, we say they get rich and switch.”
“For years, I was mourning for Bob,” he said. “After I recouped my strength, I couldn’t believe the distributor would be so wicked. They knew who I was. Time magazine named ‘Exodus’ as album of the century in 1999. I worked on that CD. I’ve kept alive Bob’s songs all the years.”
If Marley were here today, Barrett said, there wouldn’t be a fight.
“He and I were very, very close; we became partners, we signed a record contract with Island Records in 1974,” Barrett said.
Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, Barrett plans to keep playing Marley’s and his music.
“The reggae music is the art of the people, it’s the universal language of the people,” Barrett said. “No matter what language you speak, you feel the beat and move your feet. Bob Marley and the Wailers would always say, ‘One good thing about the music: When it hits you, you feel no pain.'”
WHAT: The Wailers
WHEN: Wednesday at 9 p.m. Doors open an hour before.
WHERE: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St., Nevada City
ADMISSION: $18 advance, $20 at the door
INFORMATION: 265-5040 or 583-2801
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